Criticism of a delay in the publication of an independent review into financial issues of “grave” concern at the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) doesn’t appear to have accelerated the process.
The chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food & Marine, Jackie Cahill, described as “completely and utterly unacceptable” how a report from the audit and tax firm Mazars has yet to be delivered.
In June Mazars was chosen to examine financial transactions at the IHRB last year that prompted the chief executive Darragh O’Loughlin to tell the Dail’s Public Accounts Committee about a “bombshell” issue. It led to the regulator’s chief financial officer being put on voluntary leave.
Earlier this week, the IHRB couldn’t rule out the vital report not appearing until the new year. Cahill was blunt in his criticism of the situation when O’Loughlin appeared in front of the agriculture committee on Wednesday.
“I just find the time lapse completely and utterly unacceptable. There are serious questions here to be asked about how this happened and the time lag is definitely doing no good to anyone and definitely doing no good to the reputation of the IHRB,” the Fianna Fáil TD for Tipperary said.
On Friday, an IHRB spokesman said the situation remained unchanged.
“It’s as Darragh said the other day, it’s very hard to predict. It’s so close to Christmas that it’s very hard to say we will definitely have it this year,” he said.
O’Loughlin told the committee the IHRB has provided six years’ worth of financial records and banking transactions to the review, as well as providing what he described as “relevant personal records”. He said Mazars was examining what could run to thousands of documents.
Pressed as to if he believed governance matters at the IHRB would ultimately be found to be satisfactory, O’Loughlin said he couldn’t answer until the report was issued.
However, he added: “I’m confident regardless of what emerges through this review, we will be putting everything right.
“I’m confident that once we have their report and recommendations that we will either find everything is already all right, and I’ve no reason to believe it isn’t, and to the extent there are shortcomings identified in controls or processes or procedures, we will be putting them right.”
O’Loughlin confirmed to the committee that chief financial officer, Donal O’Shea, remains an employee on voluntary leave without prejudice to his position.
He also said an interim financial controller has been working for the IHRB since the summer although the employee of Horse Racing Ireland who is carrying out the job isn’t full time in the role.
It also emerged that additional funding of €1.2 million is being sought by the IHRB to put in place recommendations from an independent review carried out by Australian vet Dr Craig Suann into the regulator’s anti-doping procedures.
In other news, jockey Sam Ewing has withdrawn an appeal against a five-day suspension he picked up in last weekend’s Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.
Ewing on board Gordon Elliott’s outsider Fils D’oudairies appeared to drift off the rail on the turn-in to the straight, allowing his stable companion Pied Piper up his inside. It resulted in the odds-on favourite State Man being pushed off his racing line.
Ewing was judged to have broken the rarely employed Rule 226 in that he made a manoeuvre with the apparent intention of “advantaging” another runner from the same trainer.
The IHRB confirmed on Friday it was the first time the rule was used since its introduction in 2019 as part of harmonisation moves with other racing jurisdictions.
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